Premier League • England

Klopp cites ‘clear sign’ Liverpool struggler is back; dismisses Tottenham claim as something he’s ‘never once’ believed

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp reckons a Liverpool struggler is back on the path to becoming a vital asset, and dismissed one notion doing the rounds about Sunday’s opponents Tottenham.

Liverpool travel to north London on Sunday for a critical Premier League clash against Tottenham. Both sides are desperate for three points, though for surprisingly different reasons.

The Reds are already eight points adrift of fourth spot amid growing concerns they may miss out on Champions League qualification.

Spurs, meanwhile, have lost two of their last three in the league and need a victory to maintain contact with Arsenal and Man City in the title race.

Liverpool have a stellar recent record against Tottenham having won seven and drawn three of their last 10 meetings.

However, since Antonio Conte took charge, Spurs have not tasted defeat against the Reds, with both of last season’s league meetings ended in score-draws.

Liverpool’s 1-1 stalemate with Spurs on May 7 last season was the final match in which Klopp’s side dropped points in the league. Given they lost the title to Man City by a single point, their near miss can be traced back to that failure to sink Spurs.

Now, speaking in a press conference on Friday, Klopp had no qualms about highlighting just how “massive” of a game Sunday’s clash is for his team.

Furthermore, given Tottenham’s suspect form of late and their propensity to fall behind early, some within the media have speculated this is a fine time to play Spurs.

Railing against any such sentiment, Klopp insisted not once has he ever believed there is a good time to face Tottenham.

Klopp wary of Spurs at both ends

“It’s a massive game for us (Sunday),” said Klopp (via the Liverpool Echo).

“I didn’t count the points difference between us but we cannot be picky where we get points, nut it’s difficult.

“They are well organised in defending. Counter-attack is a massive thing. You saw their offensive power.

“They have scored goals in the last minutes lately, so we are prepared for a confident, strong opponent.”

Klopp continued: “What I can say I never once thought before going to Tottenham ‘now is a good time to face Tottenham’.

“It will be a tough one but that’s what we all want. It’s like a Champions League game in the Premier League and that’s how we’ll approach it.”

Liverpool injury update

Klopp confirmed he’ll be without the evergreen James Milner for the contest due to concussion protocols. Milner was substituted early against Napoli in midweek after suffering a head knock.

Jordan Henderson is fit to feature, however, and could line up alongside Thiago and Fabinho in what is arguably Liverpool’s strongest midfield three.

Fabinho has come under fire for a series of below-par displays this season. Jamie Carragher is one pundit who has been particularly vocal about the Brazilian’s drop-off, including describing him as playing like a “ghost” against Leeds.

However, Klopp claimed Fabinho’s display against Napoli that helped Liverpool keep a clean sheet against Europe’s form team was a “clear sign” he’s finally turned the corner.

Fabinho back on track; Nunez making “big steps”

“The game was a clear sign of how we know Fabinho,” added Klopp. “A good game, defended all positions on a different level to the week before [against Leeds], so it felt good for him and very important for him.

“A good start in the right direction.”

Finally, Klopp gave a ringing endorsement of new striker Darwin Nunez.

The Uruguayan is all-action when on the pitch, though does appear to lack control and finesse in certain situations.

Regardless, his record of seven goals in 15 appearances is not to be sniffed at. Even more impressive is the fact those 15 outings have comprised just 743 minutes – a ratio of a goal every 106 minutes.

Klopp reckons the ex-Benfica man is coming to the fore of late, claiming he’s making “big steps” towards what Liverpool envision him being.

“Darwin is a real threat in the finishing situations,” said the Reds boss.

“He is involved in everything, always an option to pass and cross to. He was involved in both goals on Tuesday, so he’s making big steps.”

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